Paradise Towers isn’t quite as awful as Time and the Rani, but it has its own set of problems. It’s arguably a lot more disappointing, because it has elements that show promise. The cyberpunk-esque setting and hints of war and disaster elsewhere paint a rich science fiction canvas. The enclosed setting of the tower building has allowed for a self-contained culture to develop. Unfortunately, it’s been filled with excruciatingly silly cartoon characters.
Gangs of kids are never fun to watch singing, chanting and mocking. Admittedly, their use of language and names is somewhat imaginative, but the performances are painful. Then there’s Mel’s tea break with Tilda and Tabby – oh my word, these scenes are diabolical. It’s one part kids’ comedy show, one part weird horror (again with the cannibalism; give it rest, writers!). What with the music that frequently sounds like it’s from a soap opera, it creates completely the wrong atmosphere (unless the intended atmosphere was of a soap opera version of Dredd / The Raid!). The thing is, it could sort of be weird enough to work, but then someone like Pex turns up and all hope is lost. Not to mention the Chief, played by Richard Briers, who hams it up throughout, putting on a performance that goes from Blakey from On the Buses to a gurning robo-zombie. Just so, so awful.
The one element of humour that I think actually works is the rules and regulations that all the caretakers abide by. Panicking patrols having to call out ridiculously long numbers just to report in is the sort of satirical humour that works well in science fiction, but it is completely overplayed, and the Doctor’s escape by faking the rulebook is unbelievable.
Further, the robot cleaners are pathetically unthreatening, looking like a group of Robot Wars rejects, the ‘action’ is laughable, Mel is excruciating, and the silly tone turns a potentially interesting premise into a joke. This is not Doctor Who’s finest tower.